The New SAT – What We Know (Summary of Key Points)

With the New SAT coming into effect next month – the start date is March 2016 – students and test-takers around the world are trying to get a clearer idea as to the new test’s requirements.

Best SAT Prep BooksLuckily, the official makers of the SAT have provided guidance, many test prep companies and publishers have already published updated SAT prep books, and even educational experts and the media have weighed in.

Based on our survey of these various sources, the following is a concise summary of key points concerning the new test. This is what we know so far about the New SAT, and what we think is important for you to know:


  • In theory, the New SAT was designed to be “less of a mystery,” a test that better corresponds to what students have learned during high school (based on what is in most States a normal curriculum) and what they need to succeed in college (but see the section below highlighting some concerns surrounding the revised SAT)
  • The New SAT is more concerned with testing the depth of students’ math skills (instead of testing breadth with more superficial questions) – you have to know less concepts but understand them better…
  • It also emphasizes the ability to interpret texts based on evidence as well as usage of sophisticated college and professional vocabulary; conversely, confusing and borderline absurd vocabulary has vanished
  • The New SAT is more similar to the ACT Test, its major competitor (which raises the question which test to take!)

Format, Contents, and Structure

  • There will be two sections, one less as compared to the previous version of the SAT: (1) Math and (2) Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
  • In terms of reading, questions will be based on passages relating to domestic or international literature (1 passage), history and social sciences (2 passages), and science (2 passages)
  • The reading questions may be linked with each other, for example with the answer to one question providing the evidence that is asked for in another questions
  • Writing questions continue to focus on grammar skills and the ability to express ideas in a logical manner; there is less emphasis on isolated complex grammar rules but a stronger emphasis on writing style, higher-level writing skills, and certain punctuation rules
  • In terms of vocabulary, the New SAT aims to get rid of some of the obscure words that have previously been tested; now, test-takers are more likely to be able to figure out words based on context and previous knowledge (based on common usage and everyday conversations)
  • There will be an optional Essay. The essay will be 50 minutes long (previously: 25 minutes) and it will ask students to analyze issues and to provide evidence in support of their arguments
  • The Math section will have the smallest changes. Generally, there will be more (and more difficult) Algebra and less Geometry questions. The Math section uses more text and has a greater focus on real world scenarios and situations for formulating questions/problems.
  • The New SAT, without the optional essay, will be 3 hour and 50 minutes long
  • The SAT will be available in print or – for the time being limited to certain students – computerized version


  • Each section (Math and Reading/Writing) will be scored on a scale from 200-800, for a total maximum score of 1,600
  • The available options (answers) for each question are reduced to 4 (previously 5)
  • The essay is separately scored
  • There are no more penalties for guessing


  • The SAT will include longer and more difficult reading passages. The SAT will also include more text in math problems, that is problems wrapped in narrative and described in more and longer sentences.
  • The greater emphasis on text/reading is a concern for educators and colleges as they fear that, in particular, the new math sections will work against test-takers with weaker reading skills and/or those whose first language is not English.
  • Also, the SAT’s aim to be more closely in line with school curriculums may be an advantage for students at elite schools and for those that can afford extensive test prep options.
  • The New SAT still seems to reward speed and memorization over deep knowledge
  • Finally, the SAT is better a comparing the performance of various test-takers’ against each other, rather than measuring how they have done against a set benchmark
  • Nevertheless, despite criticisms, some commentators have found that the New SAT is more straightforward and less “tricky” than its predecessors

How To Prepare and Resources

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